Monday, July 9, 2012

How I shop for groceries.

I've had a few people ask me how I go about getting the savings I do, so here it is... the complete explanation. Now mind you, I am a novice at this but I usually take home a savings of between $100-$200 every two weeks when I do my shopping. No too shabby if I say so myself. Once I get my printer hooked up and I'm able to tab into the online coupon world, I'm pretty sure my savings with be through the roof! Now this will take time, but I dedicate about an hour total a week on coupon-ing and it saves me tons!

Step One: Make sure you have access to as many coupon and "weekly's" sources as possible. In Miami I will only shop at either Publix or Winn Dixie solely because I don't speak Spanish. I just like knowing what I'm I make sure I get the weekly's for both of these stores every Thursday when they are released. I also get the Sunday paper for coupons and red plum and valuepak coupon mailings. If you have a printer, there are TONS of websites where you can print out manufacturer's coupons.

Step Two: Cut them all, but know what you're willing to give up and what you're willing to splurge on. So let's say you have used Product X body wash for the past 5 years and you're running low but can't find a coupon for it. You do how ever have a coupon for Product Y body wash which also happens to be on sale.... now you should be MORE than happy to switch brands, but if it's a situation where you can't use that particular brand because of a skin condition, then skip sale is worth the drama. You can always give the coupon to another money saving Momma or swap coupons with a friend.

Step Three: Stay organized! When I started clipping coupons I kept them haphazardly in labeled envelopes and attempted to put them in chronological order. I worked, don't get me wrong, but it was far from efficient and frankly, an embarrassing mess at checkout. I keep a three-ringed binder that zips shut and has a handle. ($12-15 at most places that sell school supplies) I then have dividers that separate by type of coupon (ie: beauty, pet food, hygiene, dry foods, beverage, produce, OTC Drugs, etc...) Then in those sections I keep 2 plastic inserts, the first one holds the coupons that will expire at the end of that month, and the other holds coupons that will expire later on. Some people use the little plastic inserts that are used to hold baseball or collector cards. I can see the use in this, but yet to have come across them. Then I keep my weekly's in the front pouch for reference if I need to compare produce or meat prices.  

Step Four: Buy what you need when you need it. If I see I'm down to 10-20 diapers, I start stalking sales and the best prices I can find. I'm not one to stock up on anything unless it won't expire anytime soon, I have extra money and it's an AMAZING DEAL. The item literally has to meet all three requirements for my to back stock on it. Items like pastas, jarred or canned foods, and toiletries for the most part fit this requirement. Publix and Winn Dixie usually run BOGO (buy one get one free) sales on Pasta and Pasta sauces about every two weeks. If I had a good week at work and I have a coupon for the product I'll buy some to stock pile for a rainy day. Produce has a tendancey to go bad fairly quickly so if it's a great deal and you end up buying more than you will conventionally use, consider going online for new and exciting recipes or learn to can. Seriously! If you found an amazing deal on Strawberries (which btw: this week are $1.77/pt at Winn Dixie) and you bought 4 pints because you expected to spend $5 on berries, but only ate 1.5 pints in the course of 2 weeks, break out your pots and pans and a few mason jars and get to making some jams and jellies. Most grocers sell canning supplies and it's a great way to reduce waste. Not enough cupboard space? Tie on a pretty bow and BOOM! Instant hostess gift, birthday gift, whatever gift. People will love that you made it yourself and will think of you every time they spread their jelly in the morning :) So happy!

Step Five: Compare! I never buy anything unless it's on sale or I have a coupon. The best savings happen when I have both. For instance, Winn Dixie has these great sales where you buy something for $11-$12 and get 4 or 5 items for free. Now here's the interesting part. If you have coupons for any of the items in the deal, it counts towards lowering your bottom price. When grocers offer deals like this, it shows up in the cash register as if the store is paying for the item. The item is still getting paid for, just not by you, so manufacturer coupons are still valid. Another great trick is getting store specific coupons and manufacturer coupons for the same item. This is a little bit trickier because usually the store won't issue coupons for an item that they know the manufacturer has issued, but a lot of times you can get savings on the manufacturer websites. Procter and Gamble are always willing to send you coupon books when you sign up to their mailing list, as well as some companies offer promotions to LIKE their Facebook pages. Be sure to read the fine print on the coupons to make sure you can use more than one coupon on one item. Also check the weekly's and compare prices on produce and meats. For instance, grapes and cherries were and entire .50 cents a pound cheaper at Publix than Winn Dixie and considering how much I love to snack on these items, I ended up saving $2.00 just by buying them at Publix. Winn Dixie and Publix sell the t.p I use for about the same price; $9.99. But at Winn Dixie, I could get the size up (normally $12.99) for the same price if I had a winn dixie card and I had a $1.00 off coupon! WOOHOO! That's like getting 6 extra rolls of the same exact product for FREE, just for opening my eyes and having a Winn Dixie card.

Step Six: Don't be afraid to broaden your horizons. This can be taken a few different ways. One way is that if you have to travel out of your way for a good deal it better be a GOOD deal. For instance, Target had a sale on "Simply" juice products, 2/ $4. Ok, this $2 less then what Winn Dixie OR Publix have it on SALE for and happens to be my FAVORITE JUICE EVER. Plus they had good prices on cat food (of which I have coupons for) and cute spider man clothes for CJ. DEAL! But also broaden your horizons with food too! Hummus is on sale at Publix... have you ever tried it? Ever make a Hummus and seaweed salad? Or use hummus instead of regular condiments on a sandwich? It's super yummy! Or sprinkle some lime juice and top with cilantro jalapeno and diced tomato for an interestingly yummy party dip or nacho topping. Just because it's different than what you normally buy, don't be afraid to try it. Flounder and Cod filets were on sale at Winn Dixie (BOGO) so I plan on making almond crusted flounder with brown rice and home made salsa verde one night for dinner and the beer battered fried cod for fish n chips for lunch or dinner another night. (Publix had red potatoes, for the chips, on sale for .89 cents a pound.)

Step Seven: Save the planet while you save money. When you're done with your weekly's, recycle them. Bring your plastic bags back to the store to be recycled or just use cloth bags. Have your meats wrapped in paper so they don't cross contaminate other groceries in your bag. If there are no amazing deals on produce the week that you will be going shopping or if you're willing to spend a few extra bucks, go to your local farmer's market and buy local and organic. For instance, I REFUSE to buy honey at a mass grocer. I will only buy locally harvested honey. It's an extra $2.00 but I know I'm helping my local bee keepers, which in turn keeps my environment on point and pollinated. (Without pollination, the world would be without food) I also prefer buying my fish from a local fish monger, and buying flowers local (they're usually a better deal anyway) Produce can be hit or miss, sometimes the prices are as good as the mass grocers and often the same product. Look for stickers on the produce or even ask if the produce came from their own farm. If it's not locally grown, you're better off getting it at your grocer (the chances of poor food handling is greatly reduced). But another great things about farmer's markets is that usually you will discover a new flavor that you never knew you couldn't live without. For me it was Lavender infused Honey or locally grown citrus green tea leaves! Usually when people create or grow their own product, they aren't afraid to compliment the flavors they've worked so hard to create giving you the upper hand on gourmet foods, without the epicurean price!

And that's it. Does it take time? YES! Will you have thousands of dollars a year? YES! Like I said, it takes me about an hour a week to clip and get organized, but the way I see it, it's almost like getting paid $50+ an hour to clip coupons, and I'm okay with that :)